A man has been convicted for making death threats against Polish opposition leader – and likely incoming prime minister – Donald Tusk. He reportedly sent the threats after seeing negative coverage about Tusk on state broadcaster TVP, which is regularly used by the government to attack the opposition.
Last November, the 43-year-old man, named only as Michał B. under Polish privacy law, sent an email addressed to Tusk – leader of Civic Platform (PO), the largest opposition party – saying that he would kill the politician.
After police established the man’s identity and address, he was detained and charged with making criminal threats. During the investigation, Michał B. admitted to sending the email and confirmed its contents, reports the Rzeczpospolita daily.
He explained that he was under the influence of alcohol and was highly agitated when he sent the email because he had argued with family members after hearing on public television that Tusk, after coming to power, would abolish the Law and Justice (PiS) government’s social benefits.
Kto planował „zamach” na @donaldtusk? 43-latek zdenerwował się informacjami podanymi w TVP.
Kliknij, by poznać szczegóły sprawy ➡️ https://t.co/hrWyHYIY5vhttps://t.co/hrWyHYIY5v
— Rzeczpospolita (@rzeczpospolita) November 9, 2023
Tusk has repeatedly promised to maintain PiS’s social benefits, but TVP has suggested that he would in fact remove them after coming to power.
Yesterday, a district court in the town of Sopot, sentenced Michał B. to 10 months of community service. He is additionally banned from approaching Tusk and his family and has been ordered to apologise to the politician. The ruling is not yet final and can be appealed.
After the ruling was issued, Tusk himself commented: “I just left the courtroom in Sopot. The man who planned the attack on me and my family testified that he acted under the influence of TVP Info, Wiadomości [TVP’s main evening news show] and TV Republika [a PiS-supporting channel]. More of a victim than an assassin.”
Właśnie wyszedłem z sali sądowej w Sopocie. Człowiek, który planował zamach na mnie i moją rodzinę zeznał, że działał pod wpływem TVP Info, Wiadomości i TV Republika. Bardziej ofiara niż zamachowiec.
— Donald Tusk (@donaldtusk) November 9, 2023
Last year, Tusk announced that he was suing TVP for repeatedly presenting him in news programmes with a focus mark resembling the sight of a gun on his chest, which he said could encourage physical attacks against him.
At the time, he said that he had been placed under special protection from the state security services after police informed him that the “threat of an assassination attempt” on him is “real and concrete as never before”.
Polish media reported that the authorities were particularly concerned about one man, named as Marcin L, who had called emergency services and allegedly said that “Adamowicz died, now Tusk will die”.
That was a reference to the mayor of Gdańsk, Paweł Adamowicz, a former member of Tusk’s party, who was murdered at a public event in 2019. Opposition figures and Adamowicz’s wife claimed that TVP had played a role in inspiring the murder, but TVP has strenuously denied it.
Donald Tusk is suing Polish public TV over repeatedly presenting him outlined in a red glow and with a focus mark resembling the sight of a gun on his chest.
He is demanding an apology, compensation as well as a ban on presenting him this way for a yearhttps://t.co/lp2ZVsK1xm
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 30, 2022
In response to Tusk’s comments yesterday, justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro came to the defence of TVP and pointed to examples of hostile acts against PiS politicians inspired by the opposition and its support media.
“Hate is terrible, but worse are its sowers like you, Donald Tusk,” tweeted Ziobro. “Do you remember how you reacted when your then deputy called for Jaroslaw Kaczynski to be shot and gutted?”
The justice minister was referring to remarks by Janusz Palikot, then a PO MP, in 2010 in which he said on a satirical TV programme that PiS chairman Kaczyński should be “shot and gutted and his skin put up for sale”.
Palikot was not, however, Tusk’s deputy at the time. Afterwards, Tusk condemned Palikot’s words as “stupid” and said he was “ashamed of them and outraged”.
Nienawiść jest straszna, ale gorsi są jej siewcy jak Ty @donaldtusk. Pamiętasz, jak reagowałeś, gdy Twój ówczesny zastępca wzywał do zastrzelenia i wypatroszenia Jarosława Kaczyńskiego? To dokładnie wtedy Twoje media wyhodowały w Twojej własnej partii mordercę, który w Łodzi…
— Zbigniew Ziobro | SP (@ZiobroPL) November 9, 2023
Ziobro also told Tusk that “it was your media that bred in your own party a murderer who killed a PiS activist in Łódź and had the PiS chairman, me and Jacek Kurski [another PiS politician] on his list of targets.”
Those remarks refer to an attack in 2010 on PiS offices in Łódź during which the assailant, Ryszard Cyba, killed an employee, Marek Rosiak. Witness said that Cyba had shouted during the incident that he hated PiS and wanted to kill Kaczyński. It was later revealed that he had previously been a member of PO.
Ziobro also cited the arson attack on the office of then MP and current MEP Beata Kempa in 2017, which, in his view, was carried out by “a madman enchanted by PO propaganda” broadcaster by TVN, a private station often critical of PiS.
Stefan Wilmont, who killed Gdańsk mayor Paweł Adamowicz on stage at a charity event in January 2019, has been found guilty of murder and given a life sentence https://t.co/gGBprgRRsq
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) March 16, 2023
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Main image credit: Kancelaria Premiera / flickr.com (under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED)
Alicja Ptak is senior editor at Notes from Poland and a multimedia journalist. She previously worked for Reuters.